People accused of low-level, misdemeanor crimes may now be issued a citation instead of being arrested, Tarrant County officials say.
People who face what are classified as A and B misdemeanors, such as possession of marijuana less than four ounces, possession of some controlled substances and low-level criminal mischief, among others, may be "cited and released," according to a press release Monday from the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association.
For the specified offenses, a police officer would have the option to issue someone a citation to appear before a magistrate on a certain date. The magistrate would then notify the agency that issued the citation when the person appears.
"Offenders who receive a citation will still have their cases filed with the DA’s office. Tarrant County has 41 municipal law enforcement agencies. Not every agency may choose to use Cite and Release," Haltom City Police Chief and president of the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Executives Association Cody Phillips said.
"We are not dismissing theft or drug cases,” Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said. “This is just another way to prosecute these cases efficiently."
Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have already implemented "cite and release."
"The Cite and Release program in no way takes away an officer’s ability to arrest an offender. The decision to make a custodial arrest or utilize the Cite and Release program remains at the discretion of the investigating officer," the Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement Tuesday. "Additionally, it does not prevent prosecution of offenses, it only provides another method through which a crime can be prosecuted."
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The department added the program lessens the burden on officers by reducing the amount of time they spend on low-level crimes.